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Streamlining Your Engineering Company’s Sales Process: Part 2 – Increase Orders By Building Rapport That Lasts

Dean Munkley - Sales & Marketing Manager
People having a business meeting

Rapport building should be a priority of any business looking to expand. Why? Because the adage that people buy from people is entirely true and by building rapport, you ensure that you’re at the forefront of your customer’s mind the next time they have an order to place.

When you’re dealing with your existing customers, then you already have a foundation of rapport to build upon. This is why it’s essential to give existing customers just as much credence as potential clients when it comes to increasing new business.

If you’ve followed the steps outlined in part 1, you should now have a clean database of customers, graded A to C in terms of their alignment with your business objectives. A clean database is a vital tool for maximising customer orders; however, it has to be used in the right way if you want to see results.

Setting Goals Using Your PAM

It’s important to have a tangible grasp on what you want to achieve within your existing customer database, in order to identify the necessary steps leading to where you want to be. One way of doing this is through establishing your potential available market (PAM) with each of your clients.

I covered TAMMING & PAMMING in a previous post, but just to recap; TAM (total available market) accounts for everything the customer buys, whilst PAM (potential available market) is anything that you can potentially sell them.

For instance, the client may spend £1million annually on subcontract engineering processes (TAM), but only £200,000 of this may be on parts that you have the in-house capabilities to manufacture (PAM). Now say that you only currently supply them with £20,000 worth of parts each year – you are covering only 10% of your PAM with that customer.

You should always aim to cover 100%, but you may find it easier to break this down into smaller checkpoints. For instance, start off by aiming to reach 33%, which is a third of the PAM. With a £200,000 account, this calculates as £66,000, meaning that you need to do an extra £46,000 worth of business with that customer each year in order to reach your first checkpoint.

Ultimately, if you aren’t doing 100% of your PAM, then you need to ask yourself why. In most cases, it’s because the account hasn’t been nurtured to the best of your abilities. This is where rapport building comes into play.

Using a Tick List

A tick list may seem like a clinical way of forging a better relationship with your clients, but it ensures that you’ve covered all of the bases. All successful salespeople keep tabs on their accounts by writing notes – a tick list is a simplified version that allows you to identify your next step at a glance.

Firstly, think of all the steps you can take to build rapport with a client. These may include – but are not limited to – the following:

  • Sending them a capacity list. This guarantees that your customer is aware of everything you offer.
  • Inviting them to visit your premises. Customer visits are an opportunity to showcase your facilities.
  • Visiting your customer’s premises. By gaining a better understanding of how they work, you may identify different ways of offering assistance.
  • Being listed as a preferred supplier by your customer.
  • Visiting your customers at an exhibition. Exhibitions offer key networking opportunities and a chance to put faces to names.
  • Sending out samples. Let the quality of your work speak for itself!

Remember, the aim is always to complete each step with as many clients as possible, so make sure that these are achievable for you. With that being said, it may sometimes be necessary to step outside of your comfort zone in order to build lasting rapport, so don’t be afraid to put yourself out there.

Once you’ve assembled this list, it’s time to incorporate it into your customer database. I recommend adding a column to your customer grading spreadsheet for each of the steps and marking them off as you complete them for individual clients. This way, you can automatically see what you have and haven’t done and what the aim of your next telephone call should be.

The Law of Seven

Before you start contacting your customers in accordance with your calling schedule, it’s vital that you manage your expectations. Rapport building is hard work and not even existing customers owe you their respect, or their time. This is why it’s important to understand the law of seven.

The law of seven usually applies to companies that you haven’t previously worked with; however, it can also be used when talking about new business from an existing client. For instance, let’s say that your client has a contract available that you want to win. The law of seven dictates that you would have to ‘touch’ that client seven times before you would be considered for the job.

A ‘touch’ can be any form of direct contact, whether it’s a telephone call, email, letter, or even a visit. New business requires a degree of persistence, so please don’t be fooled into thinking that you’ll see instant results. You might win work instantly – but this would make you the exception as opposed to the rule.

Conversations, Not Calls!

By utilising the calling schedule illustrated in part 1, you will streamline your customer contact in order to grow the accounts that are the best fit for your business. However, to get the most out of the schedule, you need to aim for conversations and not just calls.

For instance, if you’re aiming to speak to a customer once a week, then you haven’t achieved this if you call just once and they aren’t available. You need to identify a more convenient time and diarise it, making sure to treat that conversation as a priority.

The Human Element

It’s all too often I speak to engineering companies that forget the niceties, which are crucial to building rapport and growing your company. Aim to get to know your customers on a personal level, as opposed to talking purely about business. Questions surrounding sports, their hobbies and holidays are all on the table as a means to introducing a human element to the conversation. This is key if you want the buyer to remember you – which you do if you’re looking to cover more of your potential available market with them.

Asking the Right Questions

You should always have a clear understanding of what you’re trying to achieve with each call. Even if it’s only to catch up, make sure to consult your tick list to identify what’s missing and subsequently, the objective for the conversation. For example, would you like to arrange to visit their premises? Are you looking to send them a capacity list? Is there a sample you would like to provide? From there, you can steer the conversation in the right direction using questioning.

Let’s face it – not everyone is a natural on the phone and buyers that refuse to elaborate on their answers are a headache. Fortunately, you can minimise the amount of yes and no responses you receive by asking open questions that encourage the flow of conversation.

It would be worth writing down a few stock questions that you can refer to during the course of your call. Try to phrase these openly, as follows:

  • What…?
  • Where…?
  • Why…?
  • When…?
  • Who…?
  • How…?

By doing this, you’ll ensure that your calls are as conducive towards achieving your objective, whilst engaging the buyer and leaving a lasting impression.

A Final Point…

Don’t try to force a relationship if you simply do not get on the buyer. There is no accounting for personality and sometimes, you may be none the wiser as to why your efforts are not reciprocated. It’s best to cut your losses with accounts such as these and instead focus your energy on those that are more receptive towards working with you.--
In the next instalment, find out how to adjust your telephone technique to pull in brand new manufacturing customers.


About Dean Munkley

Passionate about sales management, marketing and my family. Why do I work here? I get a kick out of helping businesses to find new work. 


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